“” — Ralph Nader

How does your leadership inspire others to lead?

So often, I work with entrepreneurs or managers who see their direct reports as minions to do their bidding.

The relationship is completely transactional: the entrepreneur pays an employee to do a specific set of tasks.

That's not leadership -- it's management (and an outdated approach to management, at that). It incentivizes a 9-to-5 mindset, and we all know that today's world is more like a 24/7.

To win in the decades ahead, entrepreneurs need to lead. And true leadership is mentorship, inspiration and support.

But Marissa, clients tell me. If I spend the time mentoring my best team members and they leave to start their own businesses, then I'm really screwed.

I won't disagree there -- if that happens, yes, in the short term things will get hairy.

But what else could also happen?

  • Your best team members start their own businesses, become wildly successful, and credit you as one of the core reasons. In all their team meetings, media interviews and informal conversations, they cite your wisdom and mentorship as the turning point in their career. They constantly send talented referrals your way to express their gratitude.
  • You find new team members -- either within your organization or as a result of recruiting and/or referrals -- who rise to the occasion and keep your business growing.
  • Your remaining team members observe your mentorship and leadership, and either grow even more loyal or leave. As a result, your organization quickly filters the "in it for the paycheck" folks out of the system, saving you money, effort and headaches in the long run.
  • As a leader, you feel energized and inspired because you're consistently surrounded by talented, ambitious people who value your opinion and challenge you to think bigger and more strategically.

To me, the transactional relationship I described earlier is like stepping over dollars and quarters to pick up pennies.

I'd much prefer a relationship-based leadership scenario -- both as the leader and as the direct report. This approach requires mutual respect, trust, and alignment on goals and core values... but it also enables sustained, truly high-performance work.

And as a leader, isn't that what you want to inspire out of your team anyway?

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